Stafford MP and new Queensland minister Dr Anthony Lynham talked to IA's John Ryan about the Queensland election upset, the media, electronic graffiti and how the new Government plans to operate.
John Ryan (IA): What role did the asset sell-off play in the election result? Were there other factors, such as corruption allegations and weakening of the anti-corruption body?
Anthony Lynham (AL): The asset sales played a large role; people simply didn’t want their assets sold, there is no doubt about that. People have seen other states where assets have been sold, that the prices have risen. And also, people were saying that there could have been bodies formed that would keep a tab on prices, but that would have made assets less attractive and their value would have been less.
IA: So are you saying that the huge rise in prices over the last three years was a deliberate strategy?
AL: Well, the QCA [Queensland Competition Authority] may have attempted to restrain prices, but if you put too much restriction on prices, it makes the asset less valuable so you get less money for the asset. So, you can see that the price rises prior to the election obviously were to make the asset more attractive. And also, taking away of the solar panel rebate, again, made the asset more attractive to sell at the expense of the community
IA: That was a State Government initiative?
AL: Yes. It just simply doesn’t work, because it is using our money to buy back the solar panel rebate, to give that money to the buyer to make the asset more attractive.
And also, one must ask the question – and I have heard the argument put – that because of the abundance of local solar power and new technologies in batteries, that the asset wasn’t going to be worth much in the future, so now is a good time to get rid of it — but why are companies so interested in buying it if that’s the case? Obviously, it was an attractive asset that companies could make profits from which would naturally mean a rise in prices.
And also, the worst thing is with a monopoly: there’s only one set of lines and power poles, so you’re selling a complete monopoly to private industry.
In my view, the government has put up the capital, the government has taken the risk, the people of Queensland have built this asset, why sell it? Now, you’d be prepared to listen if a company took the risk initially and build a new power station and to build a new distribution system where they take all the risk, you’d be prepared to listen then but not selling our asset when the people of Qld have taken the risk and put the capital in.
Now, the major factor was the asset sell-off, any other factors such as corruption allegations or weakening of the anti-corruption body … there is no doubt, no doubt, that this was the government that doors were open and one wonders about the relaxation of the, well of the dismantling of the CMC and the establishment of the CCC were simply to set the stage where backdoor deals could be done.
IA: Given what happened in Stafford, how did you react to the Courier-Mail front page ads used by the LNP to link the ALP to bikies? Is this a fair tactic? Do Queensland voters react adversely to these sort of smear tactics?
AL: People must realise that the anti-bikie legislation was conceived by Anna Bligh in her government and the ALP has always been very strongly against organised crime, and organised crime must realise that if they think anything is going to be easier under the ALP, they have another thing coming, because quite essentially they’re jumping from the frying pan into the fire with the ALP and our policies on organised crime.
The one thing we will be seeking to do with our review of the policy on organised crime laws is to make sure the innocent aren’t affected.
IA: So the ALP are worried about the element of criminalising of association?
AL: Yeah, but it will be under the auspices of the review.
IA: Any more information you can give us on that review? Any high profile legislators from outside parliament?
AL: No, nothing more that I can add [Anthony grins].
IA: Tony Abbott referred to social media as "electronic graffiti" — what role do you feel it had in this election? Is the power of the MSM, such as Murdoch's Courier-Mail, weakened after this and the Victorian result? Did you follow IA's Qld election coverage? If so, what did you think? Do you think it had an impact?
AL: The thing I found amazing in this election was the lack of effect of the CM. It was totally biased against the ALP, headline after headline, editorial after editorial, was just totally biased and totally against the ALP every step of the way. There was not one favourable headline or one favourable editorial. And you know, in the past, governments were won and lost on the basis of opinion of the newspaper — now it makes no difference. You look at the circulation of the Courier Mail as well, it’s decreased dramatically. So, I think the print media still has some influence today, there’s no doubt about that, but it is lessening.
And social media is definitely taking over. Even on election day, people simply asking over Twitter and Facebook ‘how did you vote’, ‘where are you going to vote’ was phenomenal! So even at the last minute, friends are influencing other friends on the basis of electronic media and I think it will have more of an influence into the future.
IA: Have you been following IA?
AL: Definitely, especially their leading journalist John Ryan. No, I haven’t been following it independently, but have read links sent to me by you.
IA: How has the six months been for you? How was this different to the by-election?
AL: Yes, it has been difficult because I had to work extremely hard in the electorate but also knowing there was an election just around the corner. I haven’t had a chance to bed myself down in the electorate. But having three years now to consolidate myself with the community will be wonderful without having to worry about an election.
IA: Back to the beginning of the election, did you find it much different, having to explain State issues and what [Premier] Annastacia [Palaszczuk] was saying — did you find that improved over the 3 weeks of the election, as perhaps the ALP gained momentum?
AL: Oh yes, Annastacia certainly did terrific work. And there was no doubt that at the start of the election, while we were doorknocking, there were some quite negative comments regarding the level of debt, the perceived weakness of the ALP on crime, but as the election moved forward and people came out, independent thinkers came out about crime statistics, crime levels having naturally going down in the past ten years without the intervention of the government — they’ve just cherry-picked the data and tried to fool the people of Queensland to think that their policies have decreased crime and they haven’t.
IA: That may have to be attributed again to social media as MSM reported it was increasing?
AL: Absolutely right.
IA: Voters were savvy enough to know that wasn’t right?
AL: Yes. And how were the electorate by electorate figures on crime produced? When crime statistics usually go over police districts? And I’ll be working very hard to have an independent body – I would love to have an independent body – be responsible, as in Victoria, for crime statistics. So the people of Qld know that an independent body is giving accurate data on crime statistics.
And with alcohol and violence issues too, I would love to have independent data so we could see if our interventions are actually working. With ... [the Newman] Government we didn’t know, it was just purely propaganda. And as a researcher, using evidence-based methods, nothing would be better than having solid data that anything implemented by the government is having the desired effect.
IA: There are now going to be 35 more colleagues from the ALP. Are you hoping for any particular portfolios?*
AL: I will serve wherever I am required.
IA: Just as the question says, there will be at least 35 more colleagues staking a claim.
AL: Yeah, I hope everyone wears a name badge [laughs]. There will be a lot of people staking a claim, but I am happy to serve wherever, happy to just serve Stafford honestly.
IA: So, if you don’t get a portfolio?
AL: Oh, that’d be great to have three years consolidation here in Stafford; that’d be the best thing so I could have the time not having to worry about a ministerial portfolio and serve the time as a local member.
IA: How are your relationships with the cross benches?
IA: Dr Anthony Lynham, thanks very much for your time today.
AL: My pleasure John.
* Editor's note: This interview was done before Queensland's cabinet was sworn in this week.
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